unSHACKled

Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?

Countless people ask this question. Some find answers, some don’t. Maybe they do, but they choose to reject the truth because they think it is too unbearable, too painful to simply accept it.

Mackenzie Allen Phillips asked the same question and felt the same way. He was on vacation with his family when his youngest daughter, Missy, went missing. As time and search progressed, evidence found in an abandoned shack in the Oregon wilderness suggested that Missy may have been brutally murdered. Four years later, in the midst of his “Great Sadness,” Mack receives a mysterious note in his mailbox that invited him to revisit the shack for the weekend. Apparently, the note came from God.

Desire won over Mack’s better judgement. Thus, on one wintry afternoon, Mack left home and revisited the shack where all the pain inside him stemmed from. The succeeding events inside that shack will change his life forever.

Let me be the nth person to say it: This novel is a magnum opus of Jesus– next to the Bible, of course :D. He used W.M. Paul Young, the author, to intelligently and wisely connect the dots of the plot, match the right words and create an extraordinary masterpiece. His working in Mack’s life is an encouragement to all His other children especially those who harbor pain, grief and independence in their hearts.

Mack’s story made me smile, think and shed a tear. Although it’s not and never will be as perfect as the Bible, it somehow corrected my wrong notions of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It’s a mystery I have been trying to solve for months, but after reading the book, I decided to just leave it at that. When there is no mystery, thrill does not exist. And who does not love thrills? Okay, maybe you don’t, but I certainly do!

This book is for everyone–Christian or not, in pain or in joy. Never neglect the divine revelation of God–the Bible–but also do not belittle the wisdom and spiritual truths explained in this novel. As I flipped the pages and comprehended every paragraph, I understood the nature of God; His unexplainable and overflowing love, grace, compassion, patience, forgiveness and provision for me and all His children. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are overwhelming but amazing. There is no regret in choosing to trust them. In fact, it’s the only key to understanding the essence of human existence. Depending on Jesus is the first key to being truly human.

Dear friend, as you near the end of this review, I encourage you to go to your nearest bookstore as soon as possible and purchase a copy of The Shack. In the Philippines it’s quite an expensive book compared to other Christian books, but I tell you, it’s definitely worth the buy.

As you read, there will be times wherein you have to stop and think about a statement or principle mentioned in the book. You may not agree with it or find it too difficult to comprehend. It’s okay; I experienced the same thing. You do not have to agree with everything the author says since he has his own values and morals, but as with any other Christian book, The Shack has one main objective: that you get to know Jesus better and in a more personal way. He is the Source of heartwarming, life-changing stories that turns the world upside down.

The Shack. Buy it. Read it.

And may our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ unshackle you from your suffering and pain! 🙂

Flunking and Still Going

I recall my first article for the year:

CAUTION: 2010 is Very Hot and Exciting.

Indeed it is. It’s like a dish of hot Thai noodle soup with a hint of chili on the side and mixed with fishballs, ground beef and kenchai. The first sip stings, but the taste satisfifes. As you consume and enjoy its delightful tastes, you experience “small stings” due to the chili and the temperature of the dish. Eventually, you get to enjoy and “bear the pain” of the stings, and when you take that list sip and gorge down that last piece of beef, you are satisified. In fact you enjoyed so much you ask for more.

For the past 4 months I have been experiencing “small stings” due to the problems, tests and temptations that come my way. I hate to admit it, but I’ve flunked already. I get discouraged at times and think that if I keep on committing the same mistake, how could I ever emerge victorious? Sometimes I feel like there’s no hope for me to improve because I fall time and time again.

Then I went to camp. April 6-8, 2010 were by far my best days of the year. Daddy met me in my awful state, whispered, “I love you with an unfailing love”, and lifted me up. Thinking again about Him and our relationship was productive. Until I left camp and returned to my “world” in Manila.

The following day, I was still doing fine. Well, sort of. I was not “sinning” as much as I used to. Then come Saturday.

I do not want to elaborate on the details, but I did something pretty nasty. So nasty that one of the people closest to my heart cried. My heart broke, I cried a river and I thought that this person had finally decided to give up on me after knowing each other for a very, very long time. But this amazing person did not. Moments of silence filled the gaps during our heartbreaking and heartwarming conversation that early Sunday morning. Moments that gave us time to think and think again. And it was ll worth it.

Whenever I fail and get discouraged, I am reminded of my Savior’s love through the song “By Your Side” by Tenth Avenue North. I recommend that you listen to it as soon as possible. Many times I try to win His favor, and everytime I do, He constantly reminds me, “Don’t try. You are already favored.” I can never earn His grace because He freely gave it.

With all the flunking I did for the past 4 months, am I still looking forward to an exciting year? Of course! I may be in the midst of a “small sting,” but I’ll always end it with a final gorge of my personal beef and joyful smile on my face. 😀

Twice Rejected

“God opposes the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.”

– o – o – o – o – o – o – o – o – o –

When a student steps in his senior year of high school, he usually hears 2 prominent questions being thrown at him:

  1. “Where are you going to study for college? &
  2. “What course are you going to take?”

I am no exception. Whenever people ask me these questions, my answers are ready and “overscratched” like old CDs.

“UP Diliman or Ateneo de Manila. Course? BroadCom [Broadcast Communication] in UP, AB Com in ADMU.”

Sometimes I would include “UA&P, course Integrated Marketing and Communications.” I rarely verbalize La Salle. Not that I find it bad, but not as good as the former three. (In spite of my bias, I hold great respect for all current and former students of La Salle, especially my friends and relatives.)

With a heart set for what its master wants, I applied for all four schools and took all four tests. Ranking it from 1-4, 4 being the hardest, I would say: La Salle, UA&P, UP, ADMU. Because of my “personal rank,” (which I realized later on was soo foolish of me to do) I was quite confident I would pass all four. Not to mention I indicated quota courses in all schools.

The months pass, the good times roll. I was doing great in school (I was 2nd honor last quarter–first ever in my entire life!), ministry, family, and friends. Christmas was awesome, vacation was awesome, I got lots of money. Then the new year kicked in. News of entrance exam results spread like wildfire. Students flock computers and websites take ages to load (or maybe it was just Ateneo! :D). The first two weeks of January were still okay because DLSU and UA&P results came in early. In fact, UA&P sent me a personal letter on Christmas Eve. I passed both schools! Yes, praise God indeed! But I was not too ecstatic. I begin to get nervous. I was still awaiting the two heavier, better universities.

The Ateneo Admissions Office released the ACET results at exactly 1 PM last Saturday, January 16, 2010. I nervously typed my 4-worded name. Thanks to the busy server, I had ample time to inhale all the air and exhale all the anxiety.

THEN….boom.

“Sorry, your name is not on the list…….”

I refreshed the page. To check if this was indeed the 2010 result, I typed my classmate’s name. Then….boom.

He passed.

Did I tell you I was fasting that day? By God’s grace and constant reminder, I did not harbor jealousy against this close classmate of mine who also happens to be my best friend in school since second grade. I can say, with a smile on my face, that I was genuinely happy for him. He deserves it.

But since I did not pass, I felt differently. Suddenly I realized the gravity of the test results. Questions race in my mind. “Does that mean I’m not that smart than people say I am? Did I go bonkers on my essay?” Unfortunately, answers were unavailable. I could only take a deep breath, let it go, and accept the hard facts. My hopes for passing the UPCAT waned. And just as any non-“passee” would think, I thought of facts that would justify my failure to pass. “Malayo naman ang Ateneo at UP. Ayaw ni mommy na mag-commute ako ng ganun kalayo. Mangangapa ako sa kaka-commute. Mas mabuti nang sa UA&P kahit mahal, o sa La Salle kahit….hindi ko gusto.” 😦

Then another week passes. This time, more results. More bad news.

My name was not on the UPCAT passers too.

Thankfully I’m not the other desperate and dedicated seniors who really mope over the “destruction of their lifelong dreams,” but I was just as sad. I can remember my dad, coming home from work, excited to view the results. I can also imagine the gloom that covered his face. Although he didn’t mope (none of us did!), I can tell they were sad. Somehow, as the eldest daughter whose known for making her parents proud, I felt I let them down. I felt sorry for my dad. He patiently and lovingly accompanied me to all the 4 schools when I took the test, skipped work just so I can apply, and even treated me to a delicious meal afterwards. He wanted me to go to Ateneo. I did my best to hide my sadness that day by laughing constantly and watching other more intelligent kids play their instruments. :)))) (Bio channel–world’s greatest musical prodigies)

The following day after the not-so-shocking revelation of me not passsing UP, I cried out to the LORD. I cried not because I didn’t get into my dream school or that He didn’t let me in. I cried because I realized how awful the stench of my character really is. God opposed my pride. He opened my eyes by closing the doors I believe to be opportunity. People always tell me, “Kaya mo yan! Mapapasa mo yan.” Not that I blame them, but this statement led me to believe I can actually pass all four tests without working up a sweat. I mean, I did not attend review classes (even if I knew I should) and I did not take reviewing seriously. And again, I was mistaken. No pain, No gain.

In spite of all the failures and mistakes I’ve committed, I praise my Savior, Jesus. I can hear Him telling me, “I don’t want to oppose you! I want to give you as much grace as you need, but you won’t let Me. You know that your pride and I don’t get along.” I thank Him for sparing me from the more painful chastenings I can undergo have I not realized my mistakes early on.

Lord Jesus, thank You. Right now, I still got problems. I like UA&P over DLSU, but not as much as ADMU or UP. I have two reasonable reasons:

1. UA&P is 5 times more expensive than my present school. That’s the annual fee. Multiply that by 5 again, and add thousands of pesoses. That’s my entire college fee.

2. I’ve never really dreamed to go to La Salle. Reasonable enough. 😀

So now I’ve got a new prayer. Lord, if you want me to go to UA&P, please provide the finances we need, and please teach me to be content with whatsoever I have. If you want me to go to La Salle, please give me a heart to see your grace and hand in it. Even if mine are not so in to it. And of course, give my parents wisdom and understanding.”

Farewell Ateneo. Farewell UP. Guess we’re not meant for each other.